Two-Thirds Favour Decriminalizing Pot

Two-Thirds Favour Decriminalizing Pot
Posted by FoM on May 15, 2000 at 09:49:31 PT
Poll suggests public changing its view on drug
Source: National Post
Almost two-thirds of Canadians support the idea that possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should be a non-criminal offence, punishable by a fine rather than a jail term, according to the results of a new National Post poll. The national survey, conducted for the paper by COMPAS Inc., found that 65% of those questioned thought the concept of decriminalizing pot is an excellent, very good, or good idea. 
Only 22% responded negatively to the question, rejecting any change to the current law prohibiting possession as bad or very bad. Thirteen percent of those surveyed did not have an opinion or refused to answer the question. The sample of 500 people is considered accurate to within 4.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20. The results suggest that recent calls from a growing number of high-profile politicians and policy organizations for Canada to rethink the way it deals with marijuana users are starting to change the way the public views the drug. An estimated 600,000 Canadians have criminal records for marijuana possession. In 1998 alone, 19,200 adults and youths were charged for having pot. Even though the court system rarely imprisons those caught using the drug, a criminal conviction can pose serious problems in the search for employment, and make travelling abroad almost impossible. "There are real costs in terms of jobs, anxieties about having a record, families finding out," says Dr. Patricia Erickson, a senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The centre, formerly the Addiction Research Foundation, does not encourage pot smoking, noting the potential health consequences of prolonged and heavy use including respiratory damage and memory loss, but is calling for a rethinking of federal policy toward the drug. "We're not convinced that the criminal sanctions for possession are useful for the individuals involved or society at large," says Carolyn Nutter, vice-president of community health and education. Several other health policy organizations, including the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, are also calling for decriminalization of the drug. So are a growing number of elected officials, from all points on the political spectrum, most recently Ralph Klein, the Premier of Alberta. A special Senate committee on Drug Policy in Canada and its effects, proposed by Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin, who favours decriminalization, is set to begin public hearings this fall. Even the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is calling for a revised approach to marijuana. In August, 1999, the organization adopted a resolution in favour of "alternative justice measures" in regards to first-time pot offenders, including counselling, fines, and community service rather than criminal sanctions. Barry King, chief of the Brockville, Ont., police department and chairman of the chiefs association's drug committee, says there is a recognition among senior police officials that charging people for possession is both a waste of time and money. "We're dead set against legalization, but we think there has to be some resolution," said Chief King. "Why are we wasting all that time when it ends up being a conditional discharge anyway?" However, the Canadian Police Association, which represents most of the country's rank and file officers, takes the opposite point of view. Its drug policy calls for "meaningful consequences" to deter the use of illegal drugs, saying that drug use is a "significant contributing factor in a wide range of crimes, including property offences, crimes of violence, robbery, prostitution and organized crime gangs." While Canadian thinking on possession of marijuana continues to evolve, there seems little doubt that a vast majority of the population has now come to grips with the notion that pot might have some medical application. When asked if cannabis should be made legal for medical purposes, such as helping cancer patients control pain, an overwhelming 92% of respondents to the National Post poll answered in the affirmative. Canadians also seem unconcerned about past marijuana use by their political representatives. Using the race for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance as an example, the Post asked respondents if their feelings about Stockwell Day, Preston Manning, and Tom Long have changed because of recent disclosures about their past. Mr. Day admits to having smoked pot when he was young, while Mr. Manning and Mr. Long say they have never tried the drug. A full 90% of those surveyed said their feelings about the disclosures were "neutral," suggesting past pot use is not such a big deal in Canada.RELATED SITES:UN Drug Control Programme:, it's a little less up to date than the seed sites. You can still leaf through older versions of the World Drug Report.United Nations Treaties on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances: century's worth of treaties reaching back to the International Opium Convention. You'll find texts for the three most influential treaties here: Drugs and Substances Act:*/doc/{t30376}?Act C-38, passed by Parliament in 1996. Click here for the list of banned substances.Addiction Research Foundation page for the well-respected institute based in Toronto.Office of Alcohol, Drugs and Dependency Issues: series of publications outlining Canada's drug policies and strategies. You'll need a PDF reader for some of the longer documents.Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network: impassioned argument for changing Canada's drug policy.RCMP's chief drug enforcement agency.Busted: America's War on Marijuana: large, level-headed PBS special.Jonathon Gatehouse and Mark Stevensonwith files from Campbell Clark and Graeme Hamilton, National PostPublished: Monday, May 15, 2000Copyright  Southam Inc. Related Article:Leaders' Joint Statements - The National Post
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Comment #1 posted by Thomas on May 15, 2000 at 10:53:06 PT
What a Joke
"The results suggest that recent calls from a growing number of high-profile politicians and policy organizations for Canada to rethink the way it deals with marijuana users are starting to change the way the public views the drug."This is completely backward. It is the politicians and policy organizations that are beginning to change their views due to the public outcry for change. How they twist things in an attempt to look as if they are actually leading instead of appearing to be dragged along kicking and screaming by public opinion.
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